It’s the Mission League finals, and Ryan Ruiz ’16 is doing everything he can to hold down his Bishop Amat opponent. He leads 5-4. If he can hold down his opponent for just one minute, he will become the 132-pound weight class Mission League Champion.
With every passing second, Ruiz gets more tired. The Bishop Amat wrestler is inching his way off the ground.
Coach Patrick Cartmill hollers at Ruiz not to give up, and hold his opponent down.
Ruiz holds him down, and a minute later, the ref blows his whistle. Ruiz gets up off the mat, clenches his fists and screams for joy. It was his fourth top-three league championship finish in as many years, which qualifies him for the CIF tournament.
The tournament starts Feb. 20 this year, and the top nine wrestlers in each weight class head to Masters, something Ruiz has never done. To get there, Ruiz is going back to the basics.
“[I’m] focusing more on conditioning and fixing up technique as opposed to learning new things,” Ruiz said. “I’m not trying to build up strength for these last couple weeks. I’m trying to get really good at what I know so I can make it through part of those tough matches.”
The rest of the team didn’t share Ruiz’s success at league finals, no one else having qualified for CIF. Calvin Kaleel ’18 and Russell Davis ’17 struggled against older, more experienced wrestlers.
“My weight class was really good, and there were a lot of seniors, so I didn’t do very well,” Davis said.
For Davis, the team’s lone junior, the end of the season means he’ll have to shift his focus to leadership.
According to Davis, Ruiz is the best example of a leader.
“He’s just putting in the work and getting positive results,” Davis said. “He brings a really good energy into the room, and he demonstrates how to win. He leads by example.”
Not only is the wrestling team small in number, but most of its members are also relatively young and inexperienced. Five of the eight participants are freshmen, and only a handful wrestled in middle school.
“It was cool to see all of the freshman learning and getting the hang of wrestling and winning some matches,” Ruiz said. “We definitely grew from the beginning of the year to now and got closer and better as wrestlers.”
With his season over, Davis is following Ruiz’s leadership example to a tee.
Just two days after his season ended in defeat, Davis was back in the weight room, grinding.